Before We Visit the Goddess

A Novel

Before We Visit the Goddess

  • 1
A beautiful, powerful new novel from the bestselling, award-winning author of Sister of My Heart and The Mistress of Spices about three generations of mothers and daughters who must discover their greatest source of strength in one another—a masterful, brilliant tale of a family both united and torn apart by ambition and love.

The daughter of a poor baker in rural Bengal, India, Sabitri yearns to get an education, but her family’s situation means college is an impossible dream. Then an influential woman from Kolkata takes Sabitri under her wing, but her generosity soon proves dangerous after the girl makes a single, unforgiveable misstep. Years later, Sabitri’s own daughter, Bela, haunted by her mother’s choices, flees abroad with her political refugee lover—but the America she finds is vastly different from the country she’d imagined. As the marriage crumbles and Bela is forced to forge her own path, she unwittingly imprints her own child, Tara, with indelible lessons about freedom, heartbreak, and loyalty that will take a lifetime to unravel.

In her latest novel, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni explores the complex relationships between mothers and daughters, and the different kinds of love that bind us across generations. Before We Visit the Goddess captures the gorgeous complexity of these multi-generational and transcontinental bonds, sweeping across the twentieth century from the countryside of Bengal, India, to the streets of Houston, Texas—an extraordinary journey told through a sparkling symphony of voices.
  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 224 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781476792002 | 
  • April 2016
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Before We Visit the Goddess includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Before We Visit the Goddess tells the story of three generations of mothers and daughters whose experiences in Kolkata and the United States reflect and diverge widely through the years: Sabitri, born poor in a rural village, who eventually runs a successful dessert store in Kolkata; Bela, her daughter, who flees India for America in order to marry her political refugee boyfriend; and Tara, Bela’s daughter, who, in the fallout of her parents’ divorce, descends into dark places. Through different perspectives—both male and female—and shifts in time, author Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni offers a multifaceted look at transcontinental and multigenerational bonds and at love in its many guises.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. Sabitri is named after a mythic heroine who snatched her husband from death. Is this an ironic or prescient comment on her relationship with Bijan? What do you make of Bela naming her daughter Tara, which Tara believes to be a Western see more

More Books from this Author

Oleander Girl
The Mirror of Fire and Dreaming
Full-Blooded Fantasy
The Conch Bearer

About the Author

Chitra  Banerjee Divakaruni
Photograph by Murthy Divakaruni

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is the author of sixteen books, including Oleander Girl, The Mistress of Spices, Sister of My Heart, Palace of Illusions, One Amazing Thing, and Before We Visit the Goddess. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, and The New York Times, and has won, among other prizes, an American Book Award. Born in India, she currently lives in Texas and is the McDavid professor of Creative Writing at the University of Houston.